Today, I’m talking to writer Jackie Hosking. Jackie writes children’s poetry and short stories and has been published by education publishers. She is also the editor behind Pass It On, a weekly e-newsletter for people interested in children’s publishing.
Jackie, can you tell me how you first came to be published?
The very first offer that I received was quite accidental. A friend had suggested that I visit a UK website (The Bad Mothers’ Club) as at the time I had written a few humorous pieces about being a mother. After visiting the site and laughing my head off, I contacted the editor of the site to thank her for making me laugh – I also sent her a piece I had written because I thought it might make her laugh. She emailed back offering to publish the story on the site which was a complete surprise. A monetary figure was mentioned and me in my naivety thought that I had to pay her! Turns out I didn’t and she went on to publish half a dozen poems and stories on the site. My first children’s piece was published by The School Magazine, is was a poem called ‘If I Were a Giant’ – I’d learnt about The School Magazine via an online chat group that I belonged to.
Tell me about your writing ‘process’.
I tend to work in spurts. The longest story that I have actually finished totalled around 10,000 words (a chapter book for 9-12yr olds). I prefer to write shorter pieces with a twist in the tail and they tend to come out in a rush. I think that’s why I enjoy poetry so much. It’s very economical and yet can be extremely powerful. My internal editor is very strong – I like to have the finished product in my head before I begin writing and this, I think, is why I tend to keep things on the shorter side – it’s just the way my brain works, so yes, I do tend to work on only one piece at a time.
You’ve written short stories and poetry for children. How do you find switching between these different forms of writing?
My most favourite genre is rhyming poetry or stories in verse. Again I think it’s just the way my brain works. I’ve written a few short stories for children, a handful have been published but my specialty is most definitely things that rhyme. Humour is probably the thing that binds the two genres, or the unexpected – I really enjoy writing with a twist in the tale (tail).
The other genre that I enjoy writing in, and this fits in quite well with the above, is flash fiction, short stories with word counts less than 500. They tend to behave like long jokes, have a kick in the tail and usually make you laugh or gasp in surprise. My flash fiction pieces tend to be written for adults rather than children.
If a piece is accepted for publication, do you often have to rewrite or rework material?
No. I think my internal editor is so strict that once the work hits the page it pretty much stays the way it falls. There have, however been a few occasions where this didn’t happen. I once wrote a story for an education publisher, a straight prose story. This was accepted but later changed into a diary form just to mix up the type of writing used. I didn’t have to rewrite the story, the editor did it.
Another time I wrote a poem where the publisher loved the subject but required it for an older audience. I rewrote the poem half a dozen times until it was accepted – it was a long process but an enjoyable one.
Are you mainly writing for education publishing? Do you have plans to write for trade too?
I would love to have a rhyming pb (picture book) or a collection of poetry accepted by a trade publisher. I’ve had some very nice rejections so I feel that I am close. I will certainly let you know when it happens but as I said before I don’t tend to write for anyone in particular, I write what I write and if someone likes it enough to publish it then that’s an added bonus.
What (if anything) has been restrictive about writing for the education market?
When you write for the education market you need to be mindful of certain subjects, especially when writing for the US market. To be honest though, I don’t tend to write this way. I write what I want to write about and when I’m convinced that it is my best work, I send it out. Ordinarily I’m not a niche writer. I write when the mood takes me. So when I think about it, I’ve actually found writing for the education market liberating rather than restrictive because it encourages me to write about topics that I might not otherwise have thought about.
Do you try to build relationships with the editors that you work with?
In my experience editors tend to come and go. I certainly enjoy working with editors who like my work and would probably try to follow them as they move from publishing house to publishing house. I guess it’s the same with any job, people like to work with people that they know.
How does being a member of writers’ groups and networks assist you as a writer?
Tremendously. My first children’s publication came for reaping the knowledge of other writers. It’s always great to put faces to names and a lot easier to email an editor or a publisher with queries if you have met them before.
How does Pass It On fit in with your writerly life?
PASS IT ON fits in very well. I spend lots of hours at my computer which is how PIO is put together, I do a little bit towards it every day. I enjoy meeting subscribers, especially when they are new to the industry because I know how helpful the newsletter is. As a writer PIO connects me with anyone and everyone in the children’s writing & illustrating industry. It takes up a fair bit of time, but it’s certainly time well spent with people who are not only incredibly helpful but also incredibly knowledgeable.
How do you research potential places to submit your work?
Usually if I hear of a new publisher I will google them and check out their website, then I’ll email people I know and ask what they know about them. I might send them a query, letting them know what I like to write and I certainly have few favourites where I send a steady stream of things. It’s always exciting when a new potential market opens up, especially if you are a rhyming poet like me.
Did you have a deliberate plan to develop your career as a writer?
Not so much a plan as a philosophy that you make your own luck. I try never to turn down opportunities, if I am asked to give a talk or presentation (or interview), I always say yes. I also try to support my peers in their endeavours, I really enjoy helping others promote their work which again works well with the PIO newsletter.
Tomorrow, Jackie explains how she promotes herself and her work.